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Microsoft realigning closer to open sourceJay Lyman, May 19, 2009 @ 8:02 pm ET
Microsoft is involved in open source software again, most recently continuing its realignment on open source by taking a position on software licenses with the Linux Foundation of all places, and by getting its own CodePlex code included in Black Duck Software’s knowledgebase of open source.
With self-described ‘strange bedfellow’ Linux Foundation, Microsoft lobbied the industry and, more precisely, the American Law Institute regarding ALI’s ‘Principles of the Law of Software Contracts,’ calling them a threat to the health and growth of the software industry, which includes open source software, even by Microsoft’s definition now.
I think this is an interesting continuation of the change we saw most dramatically during the Microsoft-TomTom patent lawsuit. Many were critical of my belief that we were dealing with a very different Microsoft, simply based on the fact that the software giant was going out of its way to say Linux and open source were not targets of its lawsuits. Microsoft VP and deputy general counsel Horacio Guiterrez, who figures prominently in the co-opted position with the Linux Foundation, and his company went even further when the TomTom suits were initiated, stating:
Microsoft respects and appreciates the important role that open source software plays in the industry, and Microsoft respects and appreciates the passion and the great contribution that open source developers make in the industry. This appreciation and respect is not inconsistent with Microsoft’s respect for intellectual property rights.
I was struck at the contrast to Microsoft’s other, past dealings with open source software, like the Novell partnership and the inferences that it was an admission of IP infringement in Linux, or the infamous 235 patents supposedly infringed by Linux and other open source software. We haven’t heard anything like that from Microsoft in quite some time, and I believe the latest positioning alongside Linux Foundation further reinforces the idea that Microsoft genuinely respects the IP of Linux and open source software and is also unlikely to pursue a legal strategy that would indicate otherwise.
Moving Microsoft even closer to open source software in terms of actual code, we got news this week that Microsoft’s own open source project destination, CodePlex, would be added to the KnowledgeBase and Koders.com search engine from code scanning and management vendor Black Duck Software. This follows on Microsoft’s work in 2007 to obtain OSI approval for its own open source licenses.
While the deeper involvement from Microsoft may rightfully cause concern from developers and other Linux and open source software supporters unsure what this involvement will really mean, I think the signs continue to point to a changed Microsoft. This does not mean there should be any letting down of the guard to counter FUD, legal and market maneuvering that would be detrimental to Linux and open source from Microsoft or anyone else. It does mean that when open source software vendors, projects, developers and others are dealing with Microsoft, however, they should allow the company’s recent behaviors and positions to play into their perspective on this longtime foe turned sometimes friend.
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